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Sikh priest offers prayers at Republican convention

india Updated: Aug 30, 2012 18:24 IST

A Sikh priest has scripted history by offering invocation at the Republican national convention, where he was invited by the party as part of its "healing touch" efforts towards the community shocked by the Wisconsin gurdwara massacre.

Ishwar Singh, head priest of the Sikh Society of Central Florida, offered invocation and brief opening remarks at the start of the convention's second day's proceedings here on Wednesday, immediately after the US national anthem.

"It was a great day for me and the Sikh community," Ishwar said.

This is for the first time in the history of Republican national conventions that a Sikh went to the stage to offer invocation.

"It is a great honour for me to be here today as a Sikh and an American. I am proud that my country cherishes the values of freedom, equality and dignity," Ishwar, sporting a white turban, said in his remarks in front of thousands of Republicans who had gathered from all across the country to nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.

"We are deeply saddened by recent acts of violence, including the mass shooting of Sikh Americans in our gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (on August 5). Let us end hate against all people and remember that we truly are one nation under God," he said.

"As we come together at the Republican national convention to help decide the future of our nation, let us remember love and oneness," Ishwar said.

Ishwar concluded his invocation with, "Nanak naam chardi kala, tere bhane sarbat da bhala" and explained it in English: "In the name of God, Waheguru, we find everlasting optimism. Within Your will, we pray for the uplift of all humanity."

Earlier, in an opinion piece on the CNN website, Ishwar wrote that his prayer was an opportunity to share the spirit of the Sikh faith with the American people.

The tenets of Sikhism humility, equality, and justice lie at the heart of the American ethic.

"The prayer calls upon the American public to join with us in recognition that we are one family. As an immigrant, a small-business owner and a father, I am humbled by the opportunity to address the nation. When I came to this country more than 40 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the honour of offering a prayer for the nation. My story is possible only in America," he wrote.